Israel Demolishes Building Palestinians Say Was Meant to Be Coronavirus Testing Center

Hebron resident says he donated the land where the building was erected to the city for temporary use during the pandemic ■ Civil Administration says illegal building was meant for personal purposes

Hagar Shezaf
Jack Khoury
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A structure demolished by Israel's Civil Administration which Palestinians say was meant to serve as a coronavirus center, Hebron, the West Bank, July 22, 2020.
A structure demolished by Israel's Civil Administration which Palestinians say was meant to serve as a coronavirus center, Hebron, the West Bank, July 22, 2020. Credit: Hazem Maswada
Hagar Shezaf
Jack Khoury

Israel’s Civil Administration on Tuesday tore down a building at the entrance to Hebron that Palestinians say was meant to serve as a center for coronavirus testing and quarantine.

The Civil Administration, however, said the building was erected illegally for personal purposes.

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The structure, whose construction began three months ago, stood on land belonging to Hebron resident Hazem Maswada. Maswada says he donated the land to the city for temporary use during the pandemic so it could build a coronavirus testing center. He said the center was supposed to start operating next week.

The Hebron district has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the West Bank. On Wednesday the Palestinian Health Ministry said that during the previous 24 hours there were 154 new confirmed cases in the district, with 60 of them in the city of Hebron itself.

On July 12 a Civil Administration inspector issued a demolition order of the type issued for new structures, which allows the administration to demolish the building within 96 hours. This type of order, in use since 2018, has been criticized by both Palestinians and settlers, as it’s almost impossible to appeal. In response to the criticism its use was reduced.

According to Maswada, he had meetings with the Civil Administration to try to revoke the order and explained it was a coronavirus testing center, but to no avail. This, even though the mayor of Hebron signed a letter that was sent to the Civil Administration, in which the municipality declared that it was indeed planning to open a testing center there. In addition, attorney Emil Mishriky from the Society of St. Yves human rights organization asked the Civil Administration to cancel the order, citing the planned use of the building.

A senior official in Ramallah told Haaretz that the municipality had not acted independently on this matter and that in emergency situations the government may ask a local authority to locate a place and prepare it for use. The official stressed that the Palestinian Health Ministry was involved.

The Office for Coordination of Government Activity in the Territories said, “Contrary to the false claims made, this is not a compound for coronavirus testing or any other kind of clinic. This is a complete lie. This is the foundation of a building and an awning that were built illegally by a scofflaw for personal needs. That’s what the developer doing the construction told officials in the Civil Administration.”

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